Like so many horror movies, Reeker starts with a bunch of kids in a car going someplace to party. But the first striking thing about this movie is that none of these kids is annoying. How is this possible? The premise of many bad horror movies is that you secretly want these snotty grating kids to get killed. But I actually liked every single one of the characters in Reeker, without exception. Even the funny guy, who would usually be the most annoying of all, was likable. Much of the credit goes to the actors, but you can’t underestimate writer/director Dave Payne’s convincing dialogue and humor that’s actually humorous. Any of these characters in, say, Shark Night or Wrong Turn wouldn’t fare nearly so well.
What’s more, the monster isn’t obvious for a while, so you can’t very well root for it. This is one of those “what the hell is going on?” movies in which characters are literally lost in the desert and the audience is metaphorically lost in the desert. Is it a slasher film? A creature feature? A metaphysical mind-bender? When it all comes together, it’s not the least bit surprising to anyone who’s seen more than a handful of horror movies. But it’s a good example of how a horror movie doesn’t have to be unique or even airtight. It just has to work.
The movie frequently shows us things the characters can’t see, which is usually a cheap shot. But Reeker has a good reason for doing this. In a couple of clever ways, it plays on the senses. The title refers to a bad smell, which is rendered with a silly visual effect you’d normally use to show the gas stove is turned on and it’s going to blow up the house when someone lights a match. I personally would have preferred something along the lines of how Charles Schulz drew Pigpen.
You can get Reeker on Netflix here.